“I haven’t seen you in so long!”

I just completed my 8th semester of graduate school. I’ve been taking classes every semester possible since Fall 2012, when I started working on my MPA at KU. I’ll be done next spring, which means I’ll have spent a little over 3.5 years working on this degree when all is said and done. The people I’ve met, the concepts and ideas I’ve learned and explored, the networks I’ve built – they’ve all been great. It’s been an amazing experience so far.

It has also been incredibly isolating.

At this point, nearly every time I see friends that I used to see with regularity before I started school, I’m greeted with, “Hey! I haven’t seen you in so long, what have you been up to?” Unless you’re someone I go to the gym with, work with or have class with, I probably haven’t seen you out in a while. If we have seen each other, it’s been by chance. I imagine this is similar to when people have children – except instead of looking into the face of a sweet baby, I’m staring at my glowing laptop screen deciding whether to quote this study or that article.

Let me be clear, I am in no way complaining. But this is a consequence of going to school while working a full-time job that I didn’t really anticipate, or at least think through all that much. When you’re in undergrad, or even full-time graduate school, everyone around you is in the same boat. You all have homework to do, you all know exactly when finals are or when spring break falls. You’re sharing the experience, even if you aren’t in the same courses or research area. In a career-option program, everyone leaves class and heads home to be with their families or get ready for whatever work has lined up for the next day. They’ve all just come from a long day at work, and planning around other responsibilities for things like group projects can get downright impossible. In addition to the time involved, school can put a bit of a strain on finances so even when time allows, budget may not. It can be difficult to explain that without sounding negative, but it’s just a reality of the situation.

Then comes the external impacts. I haven’t even started the latest season of House of Cards, I’ve downgraded from long course to short course triathlons because of reduced time available for training and my dog looks at me with big “I haven’t been to the dog park in an entire week” eyes on a regular basis. Believe me, I know I’ve disappointed my friends over the past few years but there’s nothing worse than looking down and seeing big brown puppy dog eyes wanting to play when you’re on page 10 of 25 of your final paper for the semester. I think she’s probably as ready for me to be done as I am.

This would all hold true with just about any priority or venture someone takes on, whether it is training for a competition, working on a degree, starting a business or just about anything that takes a lot of time and focus. I’ve been pretty lucky to have most of my friends tacitly agree to stick this out with me by continuing to invite me to things when I have to say no most of the time or work around my crazy schedule just to meet up for a beer. Without these opportunities to just relax with friends who don’t have any idea what assignment is due next week, I doubt I would have made it even this far with any level of sanity. The amount I have left is debatable, but can be largely attributed to these efforts.

Ultimately, I guess this is really a thank you and a plea for one more year of patience. I can’t do it without you, and I promise – it’ll be one hell of a graduation party. 😉

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